13: Ten Heartbeats
Dalinar runs toward the chasmfiend while summoning his Shardblade, which “takes ten heartbeats”. Stuff happens simultaneously that seems like it would take a lot longer, like the chasmfiend killing a whole bunch of attendants and soldiers who were along for the hunt.
To Dalinar, it felt perfect. He’d carried Oathbringer since his youth, Bonding to it when he was twenty Weepings old.
You couldn’t write a more effective parody of fantasy if you tried.
The king also summons his Fantasy Man-Sword, which, like Dalinar’s, is described in loving detail and feels like something pulled straight from a fifteen year old’s deviantArt gallery. Branderson has said he first formulated a lot of the ideas for this series when he was younger; he must have been a lot younger.
A long fight scene ensues, reading extraordinarily like a description of a video game boss fight, during which Branderson uses the word “slammed” approximately five million times. Sword slam into chitin, people slam into the ground, arrows slam into armour, visors are slammed down and then up, it’s just non-stop slamming 24/7.
Anyway the king acts like an idiot and ends up prolonging the fight and putting himself in danger. Dalinar realizes he’s about to be killed and charges off recklessly to save him, because he should have stopped what’s-his-face the assassin from killing the first king and oaths and bonds and man-promises. Yes, this is an example of the Mantasy genre, in case you were wondering.
(By the way, apparently Stephen Colbert actually coined that phrase back in 2007 and it appeared on the Urban Dictionary before that, although both of those uses seem to be quite different to how I defined it)
Before things get too exciting and something threatens to actually, you know, happen, Dalinar manages to catch one of the chasmfiend’s claws and hold it off from smushing the king long enough for Adolin to cripple it. There’s a resounding chorus of Stormfather! and The Blackthorn! and everyone watching thinks Dalinar is a total badass (but not in, like, a gay way or anything) and man fuck this book, fuck this genre
We’re back with Kaladin, who’s all full of confidence and determination and is going to whip his motley gang into shape until they’re the best goddamn
little league baseball team bridge crew the world has ever seen.
Kaladin announces that they’re going to start training every morning and that he intends for the team to never lose another man. Everyone naturally finds this very funny.
A few laughterspren—minnowlike silver spirits that darted through the air in circular patterns—began to zip about them.
Stop with the fucking Spren already.
Kaladin has some trouble motivating the bridgemen, who don’t think very highly of his plan, so he grabs a big hunk of wood and starts training by himself. This impresses everyone. Also Syl is becoming more and more sentient and now understand the concept of death (if there’s a scene where someone has to teach her what love means I’m going to set the internet on fire).
She zipped into the air and rested on his shoulder, sitting with her arms back and her feet hanging down in front, like a girl on the side of a cliff
Because girls do that all the time.
Syl’s situation has many fascinating parallels with what Kaladin is going through. I know this because the character explain that at length, which I’m not going to bother doing.
15: The Decoy
We’re back in chasmfiend central, after that Kaladin chapter where exactly one thing sort of happened.
In the struggle, the monster had destroyed the bridge leading back to the warcamps. Fortunately, some soldiers had been left on the other side, and they’d gone to fetch a bridge crew.
Did they, now? Remember that Kaladin has a beef with one of the guys here, so this could get mega-awkward. At the very least it would be nice to see two of this stories actually intersect a bit.
A minor lighteyed officer approached, carrying a final list of casualties. The man’s wife read it, then they left him with the sheet and retreated.
Oh that’s right, these are still the “men don’t read for some reason” crowd. It’s heavily implied that a lot of these soldiers and officers are dragging their wives across a warzone on palanquins just so they won’t have to read anything and I’m sorry, but there is no way in hell a system that impractical would ever survive. At some point an enemy army would think “hey why don’t we just learn to read ourselves and free up all these extra resources by leaving the women (none of whom seem to be allowed to engage in combat) at home?” and then everyone else would have to follow suit to match the advantage.
But no, Branderson’s rich, detailed worldbuilding allows for customs that make absolutely no sense just because they seem unusual or novel. Which is fitting since pointless novelty is usually all rich, detailed worldbuilding really is.
Everyone thinks Dalinar is a total badass now for saving the king, but Adolin worries it won’t last and wishes Dalinar would do awesome stuff more awesome. Because Manliness am I right.
We switch over to Dalinar (these chapters literally consist of Adolin looking at Dalinar and thinking about him, then Dalinar looking at Adolin and thinking about him) who exposits on some military strategy- they have the Parshendi trapped in the Shattered Plains but the stalemate is being kept alive because the Parshendi Soulcasters can use “gemhearts” from chasmfiends to make supplies. Unless they can also clone new soldiers with the things they’re still going to be suffering attrition, though. The Alethi appear to have most of a continent to draw new recruits from, whereas the Parshendi are stuck with the numbers they had when the siege began (the book actually points this out but doesn’t explain how the Parshendi aren’t losing).
The point is the Alethi and the Parshendi are in a perpetual race for gemhearts and most of the fighting is actually to secure chasmfiends long enough to take them down. This whole bit feels like an explanation of the mechanics of an RTS game. Branderson really needs to decide if he wants to be a game designer or a writer.
Dalinar strolls over to Sadeas, who is the one running Kaladin’s camp, and they argue a bit over Sadeas’ use of bridge crews, as Dalinar’s are on wheels. Sadeas claims his system is way more efficient, and I must once again raise the point that that’s only true if he has a more or less infinite reserve of slaves and can bring them in at a steady rate for years at a time. Wheels, by contrast, can’t get killed by arrows and would probably be a lot cheaper.
Dalinar frowned. Brother, Gavilar had written. You must find the most important words a man can say…. A quote from the ancient text The Way of Kings.
Also knowing fantasy novels the most important words a man can say are probably GRRRRAAAARRGGGGHHHHH and “Look at how big my penis is”.
Sadeas insults one of Dalinar’s sons and this calls for honourable man-duels, but Dalinar gets him to retract the words since if one of them killed each other it would dipterous for the war.
The Wit shows up and makes awful sarcastic quips at everyone in between acting shifty, and Dalinar thinks to himself that there’s something strange about the guy. For example, after implying that Sadeas is spending all his money on prostitutes:
I point out truths when I see them, Brightlord Sadeas. Each man has his place. Mine is to make insults. Yours is to be in-sluts
Jesus, even I wouldn’t go near a pun that bad.
There is apparently some utterly nonsensical system in place where you can legally kill the king’s Wit- in broad daylight, in a crowded room, with the king himself watching- and only forfeit your title and lands. Sadeas seems to consider it, but then decides not to.
Adolin and Dalinar go off to invesitgate the king’s saddle, which, they deduce, was tampered with so he’d fall off his horse during the fight (I’m guessing it was the Wit, you read it here first). Adolin is pissed that they’re going to investigate because he’d prefer them to be off fighting.
Adolin hesitated. It seemed overcomplicated, but if there was a group who liked their plots overly complicated, it was the Alethi lighteyes
That was actually pretty funny.
We seem to be entering full-on mystery territory now, with Adolin heading off to hunt down clues and such. This is a lot more interesting than anything that’s happened so far. Adolin thinks it’s Sadeas but Dalinar disagrees and takes him over to the pavilion where the other lighteyes are cavorting to show him something.
The men wore dark, masculine colors: maroon, navy, forest green, deep burnt orange.
Would have been interesting if masculine colours in this world were totally different from in our world. But nope, I guess not.
The thing about Sadeas is a load of political bollocks and world-building so I won’t go into it but basically what we learn during this is:
1) The king is paranoid
2) Dalinar is trying to work out what “the words a man must say” are and Sadeas thinks the strain is effecting his mind
3) Sadeas was the decoy trying to lure away whats-his-face the assassin, therefore Dalinar trusts him
Sadeas thinks that the best way to protect Elhokar is to kill the Parshendi. He drives himself, and his men, brutally, to get to those plateaus and fight.
So after three chapter of waffling we’re finally getting to the point of this story arc, namely to contrast the two perspectives of the war- Sedeas’ lofty and (on the face of it noble-seeming) goals and Kaladin experiencing what that actually means in practice. Which is a super cool way to frame a story and a genuinely smart idea, but like I said. Three chapters of waffling, and that’s not even counting all of the other POVs.
Dalinar also says that The Way of Kings was essentially like the Bible for “The Radiants”, which have been name dropped often but not explained so far.
There’s some more waffling about the Way of Kings but that’s basically the end of the chapter. Just out of interest, let’s see how the next one starts.
Seven and a half years ago